- Russell Martin
- Rafael Soriano
- Joe Girardi
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By The Sports Xchange September 21, 2012 11:30 PM
NEW YORK -- Russell Martin has had a frustrating season, spending much of it under the .200 mark in batting average. But he has been a valuable September asset for the New York Yankees, and on Friday night he had the kind of hit that can wipe out months of hitting futility. Martin led off the 10th inning with a home run to lift the Yankees to a 2-1 victory over the A's in the first game of a three-game series between possible playoff opponents. Russell's fourth career walk-off, his second this year, rescued the Yankees (87-63) on a rare night in which Rafael Soriano blew a save in the ninth. "That's what good teams do, have each other's back," Martin said. "We have just a few games left," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, "and we're fighting to win the division, and that's just a huge hit." It was the Yankees' sixth win in a row, as they maintained their one-game lead over the Orioles in the AL East with 12 games left. The A's (85-85), the best team in MLB since July 1, continue to lead in the race for one of the two wild card spots. "We've been through ups and downs all year, and we've handled it pretty well," said Jarrod Parker, who threw eight strong innings for Oakland. "Tonight was tough, obviously, but we'll be right back at it tomorrow. Sleep on it, and it's gone." Martin, still hitting only .206 for the season, is hitting .289 with four homers since Sept. 3. After David Robertson pitched a scoreless top of the 10th, Martin turned lefty Sean Doolittle's 93 MPH fastball around, driving it into the leftfield stands for his 18th homer and 48th RBI of the season. "I watched the previous at-bats and it looked like our guys were getting beat on his fastball," Martin said. "(Hitting coach) Kevin Long said, 'get the head (of the bat) out, so that's what I did. ... We have a day game tomorrow, so I wanted to get us out of here as quickly as possible." Martin's position in the Yankees lineup is secure because of his work behind the plate. In this game, he helped guide CC Sabathia back into form. Sabathia turned in his best performance in nearly a month, holding the A's scoreless for eight innings, allowing three hits and striking out 11. When he wasn't throwing his fastball, touching 96 MPH, past Oakland hitters, he was buckling their knees with his slider, which again had its old break, perhaps finally dispelling the perception that he is hiding an injury. "I was hitting my spots better, making better pitches," Sabathia said. "Russell caught a great game, we were able to keep them off balance. Then he gets the huge hit for us." The A's didn't have a hit until Stephen Drew singled to left in the sixth inning, and Sabathia's only real jam was in the eighth, when Oakland loaded the bases with two out. Sabathia, with his 113th and final pitch, got Josh Reddick on a fly to left to escape the inning. The Yankees didn't do much better against Parker, managing six hits, their only run in Parker's eight innings coming in the fourth, on Curtis Granderson's sacrifice fly. That left a 1-0 game in the hands of Soriano, who has 42 saves and had failed to convert only three previous chances. But Soriano had saved both ends of Wednesday's doubleheader and warmed up Thursday night, and showed signs of a "dead arm," Girardi said. With one out, Brandon Moss came off the bench to hit for Chris Carter in a lefty-righty switch and hit Soriano's 2-2 slider into the second deck in right field to tie the game, rounding the bases as the 40,759 in attendance howled in disapproval. "He's pitched a lot for us," Girardi said, "that's going to happen." Soriano walked two, but struck out pinch-hitter Seth Smith to preserve the tie. Sean Doolittle pitched a scoreless ninth for Oakland to send the game to extra innings. "The momentum shifts in our dugout," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "They have their closer on the mound and feel pretty good about putting the game away. Now it's tied and we have (Smith) out there in a good spot to go ahead. They made a good pitch to him and the next thing you know the ball's going out of the ballpark on the other end." Notes: Jeter was approached to clarify remarks he made to ESPN's Rick Reilly, in which he said he could see himself playing for another team if he wanted to keep playing and the Yankees did not want him. He told reporters Friday he meant it was only a scenario he could see if he had no choice. "I think it's comical that we're talking about it when I've told you guys time and time again that I can't picture myself playing anywhere else." Jeter could opt out of his contract after next season, and his last contract negotiations with the Yankees were famously contentious. ... The Yankees have been talking for several days about activating outfielder Brett Gardner, who is recovering from elbow surgery and could only pinch-run or play defense, but they haven't yet. "We're just not ready to make the move yet," manager Joe Girardi said. ... The A's were hoping to get center fielder Coco Crisp, who has been out with an allergy-triggered conjunctivitis -- or pink eye -- back for Friday night's game. But Crisp needs more time. ... Oakland entered this series with the best record in the majors (48-22) since July 1.